In BriefA new study published in Nature Communications suggests that carbon dioxide levels are rapidly headed toward highs not seen since the Triassic period. Given the natural progression of the sun, there is no geological precedent for what could happen.
Warming of Prehistoric Proportions
There’s no question that the world is getting warmer. Sure, the history of the Earth’s billions of years of existence have been marked by global temperature fluctuations, but we’re heading toward some unprecedented conditions in the relative near future. New research is showing that the planet is on track to return to carbon dioxide levels not seen in 200 million years.
A new study published in Nature Communications doesn’t solely focus on the levels themselves but also the rate at which they are increasing. Since the industrial revolution about 150 years ago, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have skyrocketed from 280 ppm to almost 405 ppm when measured last year.
Should this trend continue, we could see CO2 levels at 2000 ppm by the year 2250. There haven’t been levels that high since the Triassic era. And, even though levels may have been that high in the past, that does not mean that we know what to expect if they return to those levels. This is, in part, because 200 million years ago, those levels existed naturally and were not caused by the actions of humans, as is the case today.
An Evolved Sun
It’s important to know that CO2 is not the only factor that contributes to a warmer planet. The amount of sunlight hitting the planet also has a major impact. And it just so happens that our sun is significantly brighter than it was 200 million years ago.
According to Gavin Foster, lead author, and Professor of Isotope Geochemistry at the University of Southampton, “…because the Sun was dimmer back then, the net climate forcing 200 million years ago was lower than we would experience in such a high CO2 future. So not only will the resultant climate change be faster than anything the Earth has seen for millions of years, the climate that will exist is likely to have no natural counterpart, as far as we can tell, in at least the last 420 million years.”
However, there is still hope of halting, if not reversing, this ruinous march. There are plenty of solutions that we can implement, some immediately, to start getting us back on the right track. Renewable energy is booming in the United States and around the world, despite (or perhaps in spite of) certain world leaders’ anti-regulatory policies. Public opinion has even shifted in favor of recognizing the threat of climate change, so we must harness that goodwill into effective action.